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Headlines for Thursday, January 13, 2022


Officers Find Dead Woman in Car Near Emporia; Person in Custody
EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Lyon County authorities say a person is in custody after deputies found a dead woman inside a vehicle near Emporia. The sheriff's office says deputies were alerted Wednesday night to check on the welfare of two adults and two children inside a vehicle. Deputies stopped the car on U.S. 50 west of Emporia. Sergeant Doug Stump says when the driver got out, deputies heard a sound from inside the car and found a deceased woman. Authorities later said the woman died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Stump says the driver was arrested for charges not related to the woman's death. The two children are in protective custody.


Wichita Schools Warn Parents of Potential School Closures Amid COVID Spike 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita school district is warning parents that temporary school closures may be necessary because so many teachers are out sick amid a rise in COVID-19 cases. The Wichita Eagle reports that Superintendent Alicia Thompson told parents in an email that the district hopes to give parents two to three days’ notice before closing schools, but she couldn’t promise decisions won’t be made more quickly. The Bonner Springs and El Dorado districts already have canceled classes. And The Manhattan Mercury reports that the Rock Creek district in Pottawatomie County said an elementary and middle school were closed Thursday and Friday because of staffing issues. Meanwhile, the Johnson County cities of Roeland Park, Mission and Prairie Village are instituting mask mandates starting Tuesday.


UPDATE: Kansas Reduces Requirements for Substitute Teachers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas education officials are temporarily reducing requirements for substitute teachers. The Kansas State Board of Education said its action Wednesday was designed to keep schools open during a worsening staff shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The declaration removes a requirement that those seeking an emergency substitute license have a minimum of 60 semester credit hours from a regionally accredited college or university. The changes will be in force only until June 1, when the more stringent requirements will return.  Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson said during the state board meeting that he knew of four school districts considering closing because they don't have enough staff.

(–Earlier Reporting–)

State Board of Education Approves Changes to Substitute Teacher Work Requirements 

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) – The Kansas Board of Education has now make it easier to work as a substitute teacher in Kansas. Public radio station KMUW reports that officials hope the change will ease staffing shortages in schools. A new temporary emergency license would allow anyone 18 and older with a high school diploma to work as a substitute. They would also have to pass a fingerprint and background check and show proof that a district wants to hire them. It does away with a previous requirement that subs have at least 60 hours of college coursework. Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson says lowering standards isn’t ideal but that COVID-related shortages are at crisis levels. He said that he knows of four school districts that don't have enough staff to operate. Temporary licenses will be good through June 1st. After that, the state board plans to reevaluate the change.


Stressed Kansas and Missouri Hospitals Hunt for Ventilators

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Doctors in Kansas and Missouri are hunting down ventilators and running out of monoclonal antibodies as COVID-19 patient counts hit pandemic highs at a growing number of hospitals. Health officials for hospitals in the Kansas City and Wichita areas issued a desperate plea Wednesday for people to wear masks and avoid crowds. And the situation is so bad in the St. Louis area that health officials there are urging people just to stay home. The strain has prevented bigger, city hospitals from accepting as many rural transfer patients as they otherwise might, including patients who need treatment for heart attacks, strokes, serious car accidents or other non-COVID-19 reasons.


Kids' Low COVID-19 Vaccination Rates Called "Gut Punch"

UNDATED, (AP) - Suspicion, misinformation and other factors have combined to produce what authorities say are alarmingly low COVID-19 vaccination rates in U.S. children ages 5 to 11. As of Tuesday, just over 17% of these youngsters were fully vaccinated, more than two months after shots for them became available. There was a pre-holiday surge after the shots were introduced last fall, but the numbers have crept up slowly since then, and omicron’s out-of-control spread appears to have had little effect. One doctor says the low rates and rising hospitalizations among children are a “gut punch."


Partisan Divide on COVID Policy Widens in State Legislatures

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Political divisions about coronavirus policies are evident as state lawmakers across the country are beginning their third year of sessions dealing with another spike in COVID-19 cases. In some Democratic-led states, lawmakers are meeting remotely or requiring proof of vaccination for members to appear in person. By contrast, legislatures in many Republican states are convening fully in person with few — if any — virus precautions. Some Republican lawmakers are proposing bills that would outlaw vaccine mandates in workplaces and schools. The director of the American Public Health Association says the “intellectual schism” at state capitols is a disturbing development.


Mask Resistance Remains Strong Despite Latest COVID-19 Surge

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita school board meeting was canceled this week when new members refused to wear masks and elected officials in the Topeka area rejected a plea from health officials to mandate them. Even as a surge in COVID-19 cases has strained hospitals and sent absences soaring in school districts, most of the state was plowing ahead with few, if any, new restrictions. University of Kansas Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer on Monday told faculty and staff members that classes will start “on time and in person,” with the addition of a stricter mask policy for instructors.


University of Missouri Board Rejects Mask Mandate Request

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri's governing board has rejected a request from the university system's president to enact temporary mask mandates on the Columbia campus. Mun Choi, president of the University of Missouri system, asked the Board of Curators for a two-week mask mandate with classes scheduled to start next week amid a growing number of COVID-19 cases. The vote took place Tuesday. Curators said they were skeptical that the mask mandate would affect the increase in cases. The system currently recommends wearing masks. Two private colleges in Columbia will start classes online because of a surge in COVID-19 cases.


Kansas Governor Proposes to Set Aside $600 Million, Spend Reserves

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly is proposing that Kansas set aside $600 million of its surplus revenues in a rainy day fund and spend nearly $1.8 billion more in cash reserves on a host of one-time projects. The Democratic governor's budget director on Wednesday outlined proposed spending blueprint for state government through June 2023 to the Republican-controlled Legislature's budget committees. The projects Kelly proposed in her spending blueprint for state government through June 2023 included paying off bonds early and undoing financial maneuvers lawmakers did in previous years to deal with budget shortfalls. She's also proposing a one-time rebate of $250 to all Kansans who filed state income tax returns last year. The governor's budget director is releasing more details today (WED) about the governor's proposals.


Kansas Governor Seeks College Tuition Freeze, Recounts Accomplishments, Calls State Healthier

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly is calling for another freeze in tuition at Kansas colleges. Her State of the State address Tuesday evening to a joint session of the Legislature also portrayed Kansas as booming economically and previewed what are likely to be major themes in her reelection campaign. The Democratic governor didn’t provide details about her college tuition proposal in her speech. Legislators and the board overseeing the state's higher education system have already tried to contain those costs. Kelly also is pushing to eliminate the state’s sales tax on groceries and give a $250 income tax rebate to Kansas residents. She's also pushing, once again, for Medicaid expansion.  Her proposals come as she faces a tough reelection race. (Read more.)

(Listen to Jim McLean's report on the State of the State speech.)


Manhattan Man Found Guilty in Robbery-Related Killing

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A 31-year-old Manhattan man has been convicted of first-degree murder in a fatal shooting during an attempted robbery. A Riley County jury also found Richard Goens guilty Wednesday of five other counts stemming from the November 2019 death of 24-year-old Tanner Zamecnik, of Manhattan. Prosecutors argued that Goens shot Zamecnik while he and three others were robbing him of drugs and cash. They said the suspects met Zamecnik after saying they wanted to buy marijuana from him. Goens will be sentenced March 3. Two of the other suspects pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. The fourth man awaits trial on a first-degree murder charge.


Army Offers Reward in Fort Riley Woman's Killing Last Fall

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Army is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the death of a Fort Riley woman last fall. The Army's Criminal Investigation Division is seeking information in the death of 22-year-old Enfinnity Hayes. The Geary County Sheriff's Office says Hayes and her husband were at a Milford State Park Shelter on October 3 when a man tried to rob them. The man shot Hayes. Her husband drove her to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.


Man Arrested in Deaths of Victims Found in Kansas, Oklahoma

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been arrested in the 2019 robbery, kidnapping and shooting deaths of two men whose bodies were found hours apart in an Oklahoma ditch and a Kansas trailer. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says 30-year-old Ralph Thomas Salas Jr., of Liberal, was booked into the Seward County Jail in Kansas on Monday. The KBI says the investigation began when a farmer found 25-year-old Timothy Martin's body in the ditch on his property in Texas County, Oklahoma, near the state's border with Kansas. Later that night, the body of Martin's former roommate, 31-year-old Erick Salas, was found in a trailer west of Liberal. The KBI says Ralph Salas and Erick Salas weren't related.


Missouri Supreme Court Remands 3 Cases Using Video Testimony

UNDATED, (AP) - The Missouri Supreme Court has vacated three convictions in separate cases that involved video participation in the trials, which have been used more extensively during the coronavirus pandemic. One of the cases involved an adult male who was convicted in St. Louis Circuit Court of statutory rape. Two of the cases involved juveniles in Jackson County. One objected to not being allowed to appear in person at his adjudication hearing and the other objected to witnesses being allowed to testify via video. The court said it could not rule that video participation in trials satisfies the defendants' constitutional right to confront their accusers in person.


29 Charged in 6-State Shoplifting Ring that Hit Pharmacies

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Authorities have arrested more than two dozen people for allegedly taking part in a multistate shoplifting ring involving more than $10 million in stolen merchandise. U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson in Tulsa and Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor announced state and federal charges Thursday against 29 defendants, including 25 who have been arrested. Prosecutors say the defendants took part in a crime ring that stole mostly over-the-counter medications from pharmacies and other retailers in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. Ringleaders would then arrange for the sale of the items on e-commerce websites such as Amazon and eBay. The Tulsa Police Department launched the investigation in 2019.


Missouri Bill Would Ban Critical Race Theory in Schools

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Republican lawmakers are pushing to ban critical race theory in K-12 Missouri schools and give parents and guardians more control over what their children learn. Lawmakers pitched the bills during a state House committee hearing Tuesday. Republican Rep. Nick Schroer's legislation would prohibit teachers from using critical race theory, a framework for examining the effects race and racism have on the nation's institutions. Rep. Doug Richey’s bill would allow parents and guardians to censor class materials provided to their children “based on such parent’s beliefs regarding morality, sexuality, religion, or other issues related to the well-being, education, and upbringing of such parent’s child.”


Kansas City Public School District Earns Full Accreditation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri state education officials say the Kansas City public school district has earned full accreditation, effective immediately. Tuesday's announcement means the district will be fully accredited for the first time since 2000. The State Board of Education said the district has improved its academics and instructional systems and has gained stability in its leadership. Since losing its accreditation in 2000, the district has been provisionally accredited then lost that accreditation again. The district regained its partial accreditation in 2014. School district officials said the district has improved its four-year graduation rate from 68.7% in 2016 to 77.8% in 2021, as well as significantly increasing the number of students taking advance courses.


These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre, and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today! 


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